Photo: Dustin Winter
2016 was a busy year for Boston’s favorite sons, the Dropkick Murphys, and in 2017, they will reap the benefits of their hard work.
While their new 9th studio effort, 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory, was recorded in Tornillo, Texas—a small town comprised of just over 1,500 people just outside of El Paso—Murphys’ lead guitarist Tim Brennan assures fans that even while 2,362 miles from home, Boston was at the heart of the record from the very beginning.
“We went down there with the intention of just recording the album,” said Brennan. “We typically record in the Boston area, and as great as that is, it’s like having your foot in both worlds, where you just want to be focusing on the music and recording and everything, but then there are some days where you have a doctor’s appointment, or you’re supposed to go out to dinner with your parents that night or whatever,” Brennan continues with a chuckle. “Going away to Texas to do the album was almost like being on tour, where you’re not at home, so you didn’t have the ‘home stuff’ to worry about.”
“All the writing was done at home, though. The songs were born in Boston, but they were just sort of raised in Texas.”
The new record, which reached #8 on the charts, may have been raised in the Texas heat, but it has the usual ice-water-in-your-veins Boston grit, as well as the Celtic punk flare that the Dropkicks have continued to master since their conception, and is arguably their most personal album to date.
Covering an array of topics central to the Hub, whether it be the band’s loyal fan base in “Blood,” childhood memories of growing up in the area in “Sandlot,” or the Boston Marathon bombing in “4-15-13,” an overwhelming inspiration for this record was the heroin and opiate crisis that has ravaged its way through the region. Brennan says that the epidemic has hit the band deep, both as a group and in their own lives, especially within the last year.
“Us in the band, we’ve seen so many stories of people being at the lowest of the low, and then turning their life around, but unfortunately, we’ve recently been seeing more of the opposite, even with people who have made a go at rehab, relapsing and ultimately overdosing and dying,” said Brennan. “Ken [Casey, DKM’s frontman] and I played at a funeral awhile back for a guy who was around when the Dropkicks first started, and had been a friend of Ken’s forever, and Ken has been to about 20 more funerals before that, and it’s all centered around this horrible epidemic.”
“I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t if it’s making people more aware that are ways to get help, but I don’t know. I think the only thing we can do at this point is trying to bring as much attention to it as we can, so maybe that’s what it will take to get it figured out. It’s certainly putting people to the test.”
The weight of the epidemic was the driving force behind “Rebels With a Cause” and a cover of the Gerry & The Pacemakers’ classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – tracks that express solidarity and support of those who have hit rock bottom – and “Paying My Way”, the lead single from the record, offering an anthemic vision of hope and perseverance for those who have fallen on hard times.
“We travel all over the world, and we see [homelessness] everywhere, and it’s a tough situation, and it’s unbelieveable” said Brennan. “We [in the band] pride ourselves on the fact that we work very closely with many different charities, and the Claddagh Fund was established, and we would play charity shows for this charity, and this charity, and we found that our fans were really willing to chip in and help out with causes we were really passionate about,” he continued. “So the Claddagh Fund was established to have one place where our fans and friends could donate money, and it would be directly given to specific causes, like homeless shelters and recovery programs.”
Not all entertainers realize the power of their platform, or how lucky they might have it compared to those down on their luck, but Brennan is fully aware of the responsibility the Dropkick Murphys have, as a band, and doesn’t take the ability to help out, in whatever way possible, for granted.
“It’s nice to be in the position that we’re in, where we have a lot of fans and we have a decent platform to be able to reach a good amount of people, and say that ‘this is a cause we are getting behind, and we would love your help,’ and to see that there are a lot of people out there that are willing to help is great, but at the same time, you continue to see so much homelessness, and people being laid off from their jobs and not being able to afford to live, and it’s really a tough scenario. I think that people that are in a better situation than those who need the help have to be willing to offer the help whenever they can.”
“We just hope that with things like the Claddagh Fund, that we can help, even as minimal as it may be, we are glad to try and help in any way that we can.”
Brennan doesn’t speak for the whole band, but his own experiences with loved ones suffering from the disease of addiction have caused him to look at these issues harder, and he feels a major contributor to the epidemic is the stigma that are cast upon those seeking help through recovery programs.
“The whole taboo of drug addiction makes it difficult for the people who feel that they need help to seek help, because there’s so much judgement and there are people feeling like they’ve let their families down,” said Brennan. “These sorts of things are preventing people from seeking and getting help, and it’s a horrible cycle that people get caught in.”
Whether it be their years of support of Unions, their vocal opposition to hate and oppression, or the Claddagh Fund to “help the underfunded organizations that support the most vulnerable” in the community, the Dropkick Murphys continue to be rebels with a cause, standing up for what they believe in, and helping those who believe in them, with a healthy dose of positivity and hope.
“When we go out on tour this year, I don’t think we will be doing too much political talking from the stage, or anything like that, but in the event that there is something we feel very passionate about, we will certainly do what we can. But like I said, we aren’t super political, and we are focusing more on delivering the music and positivity.”
Dropkick Murphys are currently on tour overseas, and will be coming home to Boston for their annual St. Patrick’s Day weekend shows, with tickets still available for the March 15th, 16th, and 18th shows at dropkickmurphys.com